SAP reveals plenty of new juicy innovation at TechEd 2015

By Mark Villazon, Practice Manager, BI & Analytics on
SAP TechEd is always an edifying experience and this year’s event staged in Las Vegas in September was no exception. I walked away with plenty of insights into the future direction of SAP technologies, and my head buzzing with ideas about how customers could take best advantage of the new advances.

There was a myriad of new technology announcements, including major releases in the Business Intelligence (BI) space, namely Cloud for Analytics, BusinessObjects BI 4.2, Design Studio 1.6, BW 7.50, HANA Vora, and a number of enhancements and tweaks.

As is normally the case, the two opening keynote presentations were where all the big announcements were taking place, and the one that attracted most interest – and set Twitter ablaze – was the official release of SAP Cloud for Analytics.

SAP Cloud for Analytics (C4A)

SAP’s planned SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) offering for analytics is built on SAP’s HANA Enterprise Cloud platform (formally project Orca), providing real-time BI, planning, predictive analytics and GRC all in one spot. Bernd Leukert and Ian Kimbell showed off some of C4A’s cool Digital Boardroom which used a new Lumira-like application built on HANA’s XS engine. It amazed most of the audience and it was like watching the movie Minority Report come to life up on stage, with three giant touchscreens showcasing a boardroom session unfolding with real-time data.

A lot of the analytics were built on top of a new product which utilises the best of Lumira’s features and functionality with some extra sexy features thrown in. It triggered a lot of debate on Twitter along the lines of “If it isn’t Lumira, what is it?” “When can we get it?” and “What does it mean for the future of Lumira?”

At this stage most of these questions remain unanswered. But clearly, to get it customers will need to be on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform. However, SAP did signal that at some time in the future it would eventually turn off Lumira Cloud. SAP is touting the benefits of moving across to Cloud for Analytics as it provides more features and functionality. (Note: Lumira Desktop and Lumira Server for BI Platform are still part of the on-going strategy.)

Watch the two main keynotes to learn more about this and the other latest innovations coming from SAP in the next few quarters.

What’s new coming to BI?

SAP’s BusinessObjects BI tool convergence strategy is still on track, with the ability to build a Design Studio dashboard and export it as a Lumira .lums file to be consumed there. I questioned the product managers as to when this will happen from Lumira or from Webi and was only told to keep watching this space.

Though there was no specific topic heading/session clearly discussing BusinessObjects BI 4.2, one thing that became clear was that you need to be on 4.1 in order to “upgrade” to BI 4.2. For those already on 4.1, it is technically not an upgrade but a “patch”, however it will be a significant upgrade in functionality and features. The biggest ones being parallel query execution for Webi, Commentary support (being stored in Audit DB), and SAP HANA direct access support.

As most that know me, you’ll know that I am a fan of SAP’s BW and the biggest surprise for me with the latest incarnation, BW 7.50, is that SAP is releasing not one version, but two – BW 7.50 on HANA and BW 7.50 edition for HANA. The “edition for HANA” version is targeted at “greenfield” implementations looking at building an Enterprise Data Warehouse using pure 7.x functionality, taking full-advantage of the BW HANA enabled feature capabilities. Thus, the BW 7.50 on HANA edition is targeted at the existing customer base looking at upgrading to this release, with most still running MultiProviders and legacy initially built anyDB data flows.  

Finally seeing Business Explorer Query Designer running totally within the HANA Studio was a “very cool” moment for me. I still remember the days when BW (1.2a) only ran via Excel Workbooks, so seeing the whole solution working under a HANA Studio/Eclipse environment made me appreciate how much the product has developed/evolved in recent times.

From what I saw, it appears that SAP BW will continue to be the backbone to SAP’s Enterprise Data Warehousing strategy – for those looking at building an “application-based” enterprise data warehouse. Throw in HANA’s capability to embrace Hadoop/IQ/Vora, to provide support for “freestyle” data warehouses as well as extending the traditional BW environment, and one can proudly say SAP is truly enterprise ready (ie. for a combined SAP and non-SAP data warehouse) when it comes to enterprise data warehousing.

HANA Vora and HANA EIM were clearly new/maturing features worthy of taking notice. Vora is best described as Hadoop with SAP’s processing engine added. This engine gives Hadoop (SAP) enterprise savviness. For instance, queries can be performed that are hierarchy aware (so it takes a hierarchies structure as a means for aggregation into account), as well as supporting currency and unit conversion. By adding HANA enterprise data into the mix, storage capability and processing power is radically extended.

HANA EIM brings the best of BusinessObjects Data Services functionality ETL (Extract, Transformation and Loading) along with Data Quality right into HANA and the HANA Studio. The two main components are Smart Data Integration (SDI) and Smart Data Quality (SDQ). These first appeared in SP9 but have been getting more attention in recent times. It basically can provide “freestyle” data warehouses more appeal by allowing non-SAP users an easy way to bring in external data. Plus, it supports replication of data from well-known databases without the specific need for SLT!

All in all SAP TechEd 2015 did not disappoint, with SAP continuing to provide new innovation and the “wow” factor in the BI space, at least for this humble attendee.